Preaching the Hell Sermon

Screenshot 2015-10-08 at 1.39.55 PMI have been the pastor of Unity Baptist Church for one year. (We have an anniversary luncheon coming up this Sunday as a matter of fact.) I have preached 51 of the past 52 consecutive Sunday services without preaching a sermon on hell. It may have come up but was never the subject. The Master’s Table has been online since 2008 and there is not a post with hell in the title. And when I did finally preach that sermon (link here for those interested) it was a message about heaven, hell and an exhortation to share the Gospel.

Pastors, preachers and all who teach from the Bible have a command to “rightly divide the Word of truth.” There is no getting around the fact that hell is in the Bible. Jesus did not spend a lot of time talking about it and for that matter the Bible doesn’t have as much to say about it as some might imagine. But we cannot ignore it completely and be a faithful witness. I just read this article at churchleaders.com and recommend it. Some pastors/churches never mention hell at all. Some Christians teach that there is no hell and if there is, God would not let any person go there. I can understand nonbelievers claiming there is no hell. It bothers me that Christians are telling people not to worry about it.

I was recently accused, in the comment section of another blog, of “stringing together” verses that appear to be talking about the same thing but really don’t. The verses in question are from Matthew 8, Mark 9 and Revelation 20. The specific verses are linked but taking verses out of their proper context can be dangerous. Go back sometime and read the full passage, which I did while preaching.

I submit for you consideration Matthew 25. After a couple of parables Jesus talks to his followers about the final judgement. Even if the Matthew and Mark passages are about something else, and we pretend the Book of Revelation doesn’t exist, Matthew 25:31-46 tells us enough. Please read the entire passage; for the sake of not copying and pasting half a chapter, here are verses 41 and 46:

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

I don’t preach on it very often. I have never tried to scare someone into repeating the sinner’s prayer with fire and brimstone. But we cannot ignore it either. We put a lot of stock in the promise of eternal life. Why we would trust Jesus on one but doubt him on the other? Jesus preached that on the day of judgement people would go into eternal punishment. Whatever name we call it by, it is the place of eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. Am I wrong? Please support your answer with scripture.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Preaching the Hell Sermon

  1. you know, it wasn’t less work in theology that leads me and most seminary students to doubt there is a hell, it was more. and while great theological minds back and forth over the subject, it simply indicates that it’s dubious. what i see it used for is to coerce belief through fear and to maintain dogmatism questioned; like a godwin only it’s threats of hell for heresy instead of comparing moral paradigms to hitler.

    of course that’s not to say we can put aside the question of hell, but to ask why it matters. for this generation, the idea of heaven and hell is vacant. should that matter? i don’t know but we can certainly continue to be relevant in describing an experience of christ and experience devoid of christ; the engagement of the good and the transformative effects. all while suggesting a recapitulation in christ as to what “fully human” looks like, and what is exemplary in what christ asked us to enjoin in believing; principle the inner-man with love, do the good you already know to do, repent and forgive.

    i think we get lost sometimes in thinking christianity is for us; having this very compulsive urge to say what matters intellectually and dogmatically about it. but, no one else cares and there is no more fizz and no more dazzle in the sweet by and by of heaven or hell; now, a bit of poetry presented to those favoring prose.

    i often wonder if it is possible to simply describe how to get to an experience of christ and then suggesting that one “taste and see that the lord is good”, and then noting some think it good and others, not. i wonder how many “nots” remain only because of pauline self interest; jesus as a means to a reward, or jesus as a way of escaping death eternal. either way, i have not found any occasion to talk about hell in any genuinely meaningful way and i’m not quite sure how one well educated christian would be bothered by other well educated christians who don’t really care a jot about the hereafter. were it just me, i may say my lack of caring is reactionary to revival tent beat downs of hell, fire, brimstone and my eternal soul. but, many theologians that i know, twice my age, likewise feel as disinterested as i.

    just thinking aloud. thanks for letting me do that in your virtual space.

    blessings.

  2. I grew up in (and later left) fundamentalism. I understand what you are saying about coercion and get uncomfortable even now when I see people being bullied into belief. My concern is being a faithful witness to the Gospel. If we know there is a heaven and a hell and never mention the one we don’t like, have we fulfilled the Great Commission? Are we being honest with the people we are witnessing to?

    Jesus spent a lot more time ministering to people’s present needs than rambling on about the hereafter. Of greater concern to me than lack of interest in the subject are Christians that teach there “probably is no hell” or that as a point of fact there is not. They have invented some sort of axiom in which for God to be all good there cannot be a hell or that he will not send people to it. I can’t reconcile that with scripture.

    Thank you for reading and commenting.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s